Jose Mourinho's Sympathy for Manchester United Shows Who Chelsea's Threat Is

Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2014


Since returning to Chelsea and England, Jose Mourinho has been a little more demure. He has barely started a war of words with a fellow manager, he hasn't accused any referees of impropriety and he hasn't even tried to gouge anyone's eyes out. This is quite different to the brash young thing that swept into Stamford Bridge back in 2004—and you can make your mind up as to whether that's a good or a bad thing.

Mourinho's "mind games," a favourite of the tabloid press during his first spell, have not been written about quite so much this time around, but they are still there. They are perhaps more subtle, less overt than before, but they are there nonetheless.

LONDON - AUGUST 15:  Manager Jose Mourinho (R) of Chelsea shakes hands with Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United at the end during the Barclays Premiership match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on August 15, 2004 in London. (Pho
Phil Cole/Getty Images

In particular, his attitude towards Manchester United has changed. Before, he was deferential to both the club and Sir Alex Ferguson. Even as recently as last season, when his Real Madrid side were drawn against United in the Champions League, he was almost apologetic after winning, in a move many interpreted as being a thinly-veiled job pitch.

Mourinho would have been many people's favoured choice to take over from Ferguson when he retired. The pressure of following the old man was, and is, so great that surely only one manager had the ego and the belief to cope with the pressure. He also had the added bonus of being qualified for the gig—if one takes winning trophies both domestic and international as qualifications, something that David Moyes does not have.

However, United chose the "continuity" candidate, with the idea of Mourinho and his antics, not to mention his tendency to only stay at a club for a few years, and Jose returned to Chelsea.

And now he's there. His job is to beat United, the difference being that United simply aren't Chelsea's main rivals anymore. This much is obvious by simply looking at the league table, but you can also see it through Mourinho's public comments.

He was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying this week:

My feeling, which is based on years of communicating with Sir Alex and some inside information, is Man United are not happy, but they are calm...

The manager is calm and they are thinking this is our manager for the next two, three, four, five years. So they’re all together and are going to rebuild again a big team. The bad results will finish.

They will get back on track, although it is probably too late to win the league because they’re too many points behind the leader.

There is an almost patronising air to those comments, a sort of "never mind, better luck next time" remark that one might absent-mindedly aim at a fretting child who has failed a test.

Compare those words with what Mourinho had to say about the other great monied power in English football, Manchester City. In the same Daily Mail article, Mourinho said:

It would be my greatest achievement if we beat them to the title this year...

This is a team in development and if you win titles in this time, it is not handed to you. It would be a super achievement...

City, in terms of power of the squad, are in another dimension. You can’t compare their situation with any other club. Some people disagree or some managers feel they shouldn’t say it but I say what I feel. City are different.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini looks on before the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Manchester City at St James' Park on January 12, 2014 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (P
Stu Forster/Getty Images

This time, the reverence is towards City. It isn't quite at the same level as how he spoke about Ferguson's United, but Mourinho made very clear that City are his main rivals, not United. Moyes' team are a vague concern that they might have to deal with in a couple of years. Manuel Pellegrini's side have to be taken down now.

It was often said that Arsenal knew they were no longer a threat to Ferguson when he started being kind and sympathetic to them. Now, with Mourinho offering his sympathy to Moyes, United know how that feels.